I find myself wondering about this after a coincidence on Tuesday last. In the morning, I read a BBC report of the Australian Prime Minister’s criticism of Art Monthly Australia, in the afternoon I saw an exhibition of sculpture in a park in a town near where I live.
The Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, didn’t like the picture Art Monthly had published on its front cover. The picture is a detail from a photograph by Polixeni Papapetrou of her daughter Olympia at the age of 6. The little girl is naked.
It’s still not really clear to me what Mr Rudd doesn’t like. The BBC quotes him as saying “Frankly, I can’t stand this stuff”, which doesn’t clarify matters. But perhaps clarity is not something to expect from a politician? He is further quoted as saying “A little child cannot answer for themselves about whether they wish to be depicted in this way.” To which the subject, Olympia Nelson (now 11 years old) responded: "I'm really, really offended by what Kevin Rudd had to say about this picture ... I love the photo so much."
The picture is called “Olympia as Lewis Carroll's Beatrice Hatch before White Cliffs”, and comes from a series, Dreamchild, which references Lewis Carroll’s photographs. The pictures in Dreamchild were made between 2002 and 2003 and have been exhibited in Australia and America.
Apparently all this reignited a debate in Australia about political censorship of the arts which started off in May when Kevin Rudd managed to get an exhibition of photographs by Bill Henson closed before it opened. Henson’s moody photos of 12 and 13 year olds are far from Papapetrou’s pictures of her children, but even here I find it impossible to understand what Kevin Rudd found “revolting” (again quoted by the BBC). If you don’t know Henson’s work, you can see some examples of the pictures that were banned here (though it looks to me like there are fewer here now than there were on Tuesday).
Anyway, having read all of that I set off for Borås and spent a somewhat frustrating day looking at the town’s sculpture exhibition. (You can read about that on my other blog here.) But in the local park I came across this sculpture, which I am fairly sure is not modern, but has been displayed in a public park for a good many years without either provoking public outrage or stimulating paedophilia.
I offer them to Mr Rudd for his delectation and delight! Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much. Perhaps he needs to discuss his own sexuality with a good psychiatrist?